Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The ability to read the intentions and aggressive potential of strangers gets betters with age -- or at least stabilizes.
Many think of street smarts -- the ability to navigate the risks of urban life -- as an attribute that diminishes as people age. But when researchers measured the ability of people to identify and interpret the aggressive potential of others, they found 80-year-olds were just as competent as young adults.
"The results could encourage older people to recognize they are street smart, that their gut instincts are spot on," Liam Satchell, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, said in a news release.
The latest findings -- published this week in Europe's Journal of Psychology -- undermine the assumption that older adults are liable to let their guard down and are thus more at risk for falling victim to street crime.
"Until now, there has been little conclusive evidence of older people's ability to detect everyday street threats," said Satchell.
Research suggests viewers can rather accurately predict a stranger's intentions and risk of aggression by studying their gait.
"It's important we can make quick, accurate judgments of the danger posed by others," Satchell said. "All our studies have shown adults are very good at detecting traits in others, at recognizing danger."
Tests proved older adults, study participants between 59 and 91 years old, were just as competent at threat perception as participants between 20 and 28. In previous studies, Satchell has found threat perception among children and teenagers is highly variable, suggesting street smarts take time to solidify as young people mature and gain more experience.
"The findings overall suggest we develop a streetwise ability, that we are able to make judgments about others and our safety, once we reach adulthood," he said.